Holy Spirit football coach John Ianucci

John Iannucci followed football coaching jobs all over New York, New Jersey, Virginia and Pennsylvania.

He hopes Holy Spirit High School is his final destination.

The Spartans announced Iannucci as their new coach Tuesday. Spirit has won consecutive state titles.

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Iannucci, 58, has been the head coach at nine high schools, including Cherry Hill East from 2004-06.

"I'm looking for a place to call home," he said. "At my age, I'm looking for one last stop."

Iannucci replaces Charles Roman, who stunned the South Jersey high school football community when he resigned last month to become the offensive coordinator at St. Augustine Prep under the Hermits' new coach Mark Reardon.

Holy Spirit athletic director Keith Gorman said Iannucci stood out among the many candidates who applied for the Spirit job.

"He absolutely had the most impressive resume we saw, and we saw a lot of good ones," Gorman said. "You meet John and you see the organization and the understanding of the game of football at every position. It's pretty impressive."

Iannucci, who grew up in Yonkers, N.Y., usually steps into a rebuilding program as a head coach.

He has led five of the nine teams he has coached to the state playoffs. That was the case at Cherry Hill East. In his third and final season, East qualified for the South Jersey Group IV playoffs, losing 21-20 to Absegami in the 2006 South Jersey Group IV quarterfinals.

"I usually take over floundering programs," Iannucci said. "This is a pleasant change. I wasn't going to take over another reclamation project. I don't think you can take over a better program than Holy Spirit."

Iannucci also has been a college assistant at such places as Cornell University and William Paterson University.

His first high school head coaching job was at Iona Prep, when he was 25. Iannucci's last coaching job was at Truman High School in Bucks County, Pa.

He resigned just before the 2010 season. He said more than 100 of his high school football players have gone on to play in college.

Iannucci's specialty is the triple-option offense. His website is 3backoptionfootball.blogspot.com.

"We'll be an option-based team on offense," he said. "But we're going to adapt it to the talent we have on the field. If Peyton Manning walks in the front door, we're going to throw the football."

Gorman said what also impressed him about Iannucci was the references he had from college coaches, such as University of Connecticut offensive coordinator George Deleone.

"The reference calls we made we really sold him," Gorman said. "The people we talked to said John is as good a football guy at any level that you're going to get."

In Holy Spirit football, Iannucci takes over one of the region's top high school programs regardless of sport.

Holy Spirit has a tradition of having alumni run the program. The last four Spirit coaches - the late Ed Byrnes, Chris Bell, Bill Walsh and Roman - were all Spartan graduates.

Gorman acknowledged there is a legacy of alumni taking over the job.

"We weren't going to let that be the deciding factor," Gorman said. "We were going to hire the best guy who understands what a Catholic school football coach needs to do to be successful and understands what our school is missing as well.

"What we have to do as a school and a community is embrace him and help get him acclimated to the area and all the tradition we have."

Iannucci, who is single, currently lives in Yardley, Pa. He plans to move closer to Holy Spirit shortly.

"That shows my commitment to the program," Iannucci said. "I have a beautiful condo up here. I wish I could take it with me."

Iannucci will meet with players Thursday and with parents and alumni Thursday night.

Spirit has won three state titles in the past five seasons. Roman was 35-9 in four seasons as the Spirit head coach.

Iannucci doesn't shy away from the program's winning expectations.

"If you want to be the best, you have to have that expectation level. Holy Spirit has it. I have it," he said. "My goal is to take the (Holy Spirit) tradition and not maintain it but grow upon it."

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